by Hector Solon
As Republican candidate Dick DeVos runs for Michigan’s governor, why has his campaign been so careful to keep his GOP “Super Ranger,” political wife Betsy out of sight?
Not enough has been said in Michigan’s 2006 gubernatorial race from either side about the political and ideological background of Dick’s more experienced and politically aggressive wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) (Prince) DeVos.
The DeVos campaign does not want the outcome of the vote to come down to a donnybrook over the kinds of issues and statements for which wife Betsy is so well-known and famous.
“A woman must be a learner, listening quietly and with due submission. I do not permit a woman to be a teacher, nor must woman domineer over man; she should be quiet.”
– II Timothy 2:11-14
“The greatest menace to genuine Christianity in our day is not found in the attack of the atheist, the naturalist, and the outspoken unbeliever, but in the compromising stand of those who claim to be Christians, yet are in reality the champions of principles alien to the Christian faith.” — Clarence Bouma as found in “Dutch Calvinism In Modern America” by James D. Bratt, published by Eerdmans Books, Grand Rapids, Michgan, 1984
Despite record spending and an extensive ad and media campaign, the Dick DeVos for Governor Campaign can now be best described as: “A businessman without a business, a politician without a party, a “Christian conservative” without a conscience, and now a husband without a wife.”
Betsy DeVos is a long time political campaigner, activist and financier, the only trouble is that she has been sidelined and cut out of the active DeVos for Governor campaign. Why? Betsy’s exclusion is over the fear of her ability to create sensational news and controversy stemming from her role as a professional political wife. She is the power broker. Betsy has oft expressed off-the-cuff opinions and made tart remarks. In fact, what role she might play in a yet to be revealed DeVos political agenda: “The Doctrine of Dick DeVos“, is not clear, but it is predictable to those that know her.
From the first of three debates between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Republican challenger, the “Amway Guy”, Richard M. DeVos Jr. on October 2, 2006:
Debate Moderator: Candidates we have 2 minutes left. Mr. DeVos, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most, when it comes to making critical decisions, how much influence will your spouse have in making that decision, sir? Dick Devos: Critical decisions with regard to politics, I have great respect for my wife’s ability in that area, and I love my wife very, very much. As governor…
Moderator: So, that’s a 10?
Dick Devos: As governor, and at the process of being governor, I will seek the advice of those who are very much involved with government and issues of government and will rely on their advice and council. I’ll surround myself with great people.
Moderator: But, could I try to refine that answer please sir. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is her [Betsy's] input on making critical decisions?
Dick Devos: My wife is a great person and very wise, and offers me wise council, and so I take her advice very, very much. Her interest however tends to be in politics less… than… more than in governing. She’s been a wonderful counselor for this political season.
The answer Dick, is 12
The trouble Dick DeVos demonstrated in answering this question stems from Dick & Betsy DeVos’ public facade as celebrity Christians, or better still “Amway Christians”, which is critical to the quasi-Christian political base and organizations they have carefully crafted and created over years and years of financial investments and organizing. To their “conservative right” Michigan and national political base, which is harnessed politically in closed church-pew campaigning events and activities, this is a very difficult issue. Just what is Betsy’s role as a “Christian wife” and how is her long history of political and social leadership, a record of achievement that vastly overshadows Dick’s own nascent history and abilities, has to be laid out carefully to their political and religious “true believers“.
As far as who calls the shots in the DeVos household, remember the words of Dick DeVos and his use of “climate” in the same debate and read these:
“We can’t change the weather here in Michigan, but we can change the climate With the right ideas we can create a climate that produces jobs, small businesses, and economic security. We can create a climate that encourages healthy families and communities.. and we can create a climate that enthusiastically embraces and cherishes all that is best about America.”
Who is this? Betsy DeVos’ that’s who in her address to the 2005 Michigan GOP convention in June of 2005. Just as Dick demonstrated he doesn’t know the details of his business dealings (i.e. that nasty Alterra episode), do not think for a minute that he will ever know the details of running Michigan either.For those that think any examination of Betsy DeVos should be off limits, in Betsy’s own words:
“Petty partisan politics is a waste of time, but the clash of ideas, the battle for the future of Michigan and America is a worthy and noble effort. And it is a battle that often plays out in the clash between political parties.”
The Core of the DeVos Campaign: Michigan’s Conservative Christian Base
The basic components of Dick DeVos for Governor campaign machine have been built up over decades and much of it was set in place by Dick’s father, Richard H. DeVos and behind it all is the DeVos funded the Council on National Policy.
At the core of the theocons and the DeVos political machine is the Foundation for Traditional Value (FTV) and the Citizens for Traditional Values (CTV) that are financed and control by Dick and Betsy DeVos. While there are a numbers of other organizations within a long list of other movements such as abortion, gay-marriage, religious education and vouchers, and anti-flag burning patriotism, just to name a few of which are mentioned in the “Doctrine of Dick DeVos“.
Organizations like the FTV and CTV are now part of a growing conservative political industry in America. These quasi-Christian organizations are less about charity and caring about the least among us and other Christian values, as they are about political power for the few. DeVos family activities leverage a hybrid business / political / economic model which uses a full cycle of creating, supporting, funding and leveraging of these “Christians values” based organizations to obtain political power and promote personal profit.
In a nut shell, the “full cycle” which Dick and Betsy DeVos and others like them use goes like this: 1) largely tax deductible “donations” are made to political organizing “foundations” and activities, 2) political candidates and campaigns are recruited, targeted and funded, 3) public policy and legislation is created (portions of which are focused on “hot button” issues like abortion, gay marriage, flag burning, etc.) which redirect public funds and tax dollars to “faith-based” organizations and privately held businesses(this can be in the form of single line “tax breaks”), 4) key individuals with investments in education, healthcare, financial institutions, real estate, insurance, consulting and other services leverage these freed “public funds” to provide revenue to their own interests, and 5) some fraction of the profits are then again “donated” back their “foundations” and the cycle begins anew.
Conservative profiteers, like Dick DeVos have only one true objective: the harvesting of public funding and tax revenues from governments and tax programs, as well as related non-governmental organizations (NGOs) they pretend to hate. These organizations are not primarily formed to promote their religious views and agenda, which are secondary goals; they are formed to sustain and maintain a constant flow of public funds from public projects and programs to support their own enterprises and projects for personal power and profit.
The Bottom Line on Betsy Devos
“Women again must dress in becoming manner, modestly and soberly, not with elaborate hair-styles, not decked out with gold or pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, as befits women who claim to be religious.”
– II Timothy 2:10
If elected Dick DeVos’s wife, Betsy DeVos will be by far and away the most politically active and zealous right-wing maven ever to be a governor’s wife– possibly the most outspoken and aggressive advocate for her chosen causes of any Governorship/ political power marriage in the country.
For the time being, Betsy is “the” serious baggage that Dick brings to his race. If the campaign were to be a Betsy vs. Jennifer race – the outcome and the woman to woman debate would be very different and flavored with a much more spicy edge. Dick has always come off as more congenial and accommodating, somewhat detached from all the background issues and the weight of his inheritance and passed-down power. But Dick’s wife Betsy; She’s a far different story.
When has it not been a “political season”, as Dick put it, in the DeVos home? Betsy has had to continuously avoid playing the “Jezebel”, the rich woman bearing gold or pearls. She must be a woman who discards her proper biblical role as wife and mother to seek her own power, influence and independence. But, Betsy DeVos’ deeds have been much more political than charitable.
Dick & Betsy’s wealth and rich lifestyle stems from the efforts of their parents, Rich & Helen DeVos and Edgar & Elsa Prince and extended family, and business partners, like the Van Andels and others. They argue, that wealth comes from “God’s Blessing” and not simply from nefarious business practices, dealings and deceptive business models of Amway/Alticor and their other for-profit business interests. The governorship of Michigan is no different; in the end it is a for-profit enterprise, more a financial than political transaction.
From the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record”
This exchange aired back in late September 2006 (participants were Mark Brewer from the Michigan Democratic Party, Saul Anuzis from the Michigan Republican Party and John Truscott a spokesman for the Dick DeVos for Governor Campaign):
HOST: Can you say something positive about the DeVos campaign; I want to say something positive in the last couple of min…. (crosstalk)BREWER: …positive about the DeVos campaign…The way they’ve kept Betsy DeVos under wraps. You remember a couple of years ago, she said the problem with Michigan that workers… (crosstalk)
TRUSCOTT: She never said that…(crosstalk)
BREWER: …are overpaid, that we need to be a right-to-work state. So I’ve been impressed with the way they have gagged Betsy DeVos, Dick’s father, and others who are prone to tell the truth about the DeVos family philosophy.
HOST: So they told a potential first lady to “Shut up?”
BREWER: I believe they have. Let these guys tell us…(deferring to Saul Anuzis and John Truscott)
TRUSCOTT: There goes Mark…Making it up again! He fabricates virtually everything he says. Betsy is a strong asset in this campaign. She has been out among a number of groups all over the state, giving speeches, helping on the financial side, making calls. She’s been a great person to work with….
HOST: Cheap shot?
TRUSCOTT: Absolutely! But I’ve come to expect no less….
Notice that Saul Anuzis remained very, very quiet. He knows Betsy, and how she might react, or was he thinking “Oh, crap… something like that is on my MI-GOP `That’s Saul’ Blog”. From Saul Anuzis’ own blog on the topic “Dick must distance himself from his own wife, Betsy”:
“Question: Is Betsy DeVos a liability or an asset for Dick DeVos?
“A little bit of both,” Rustem said. “Some of Betsy’s statements from the past will come up in the race. Actually, [Dick] will in some ways have to distance himself more from Betsy’s past statements than he would distance himself from Bush.”
What’s this? Betsy DeVos as a Political “Liability”?
“[Betsy] realizes that she has been prone to say things that have gotten her in trouble and they [Dick and his Campaign] have made a decision for her to take a total back seat. She is not the Hillary Clinton-type who is out front making comments”
– Bill Ballenger, political analyst, “Inside Michigan”
Ballenger is attempting to mollifying criticism of Betsy for allowing herself to be sidelined and shut out of the public debate and politics in the race hubby Dick is making–on his own–for Governor of Michigan. Betsy is now on the sidelines.
The DeVos Campaign didn’t start that way
From the Grand Rapids Press in “DeVos is Asset in Husband’s Bid” September 24, 2005, by Steven Harmon:
MACKINAC ISLAND — With little guidance on how a former state party chairperson takes on the role of candidate’s wife, Betsy DeVos has had no choice but to blaze her own trail.On the sun-splashed porch of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel as the Republican Leadership Conference got under way Friday, DeVos spoke of her husband Dick’s chances at defeating Gov. Jennifer Granholm next year, and of the role she will play in his campaign.
“I don’t have a lot of roadmaps for this,” said DeVos, of Ada, whose husband is the ex-CEO of Alticor. “I’ll be actively out there speaking on his behalf and as a surrogate for him. I haven’t been deployed elsewhere yet.”
Not too many candidates’ wives would ever use politico-speak like “surrogate” or “deployed,” but DeVos is unique. A longtime Republican activist who has served two terms as the state GOP’s chairman, DeVos is intimately involved with the daily strategizing for her husband’s campaign, and brings campaign experience that few candidates’ wives could claim.
“She’s an immense asset to Dick,” said Nate Bailey, spokesman for the Republican Party. “She knows this state so well, she knows issues, she’s very well-spoken. You don’t find political spouses with the talent and caliber of Betsy.”
But, Betsy has such a long history of being the GOP Voice of Mordor, the Mouth of Sauron. For example, here’s Betsy DeVos on Gov. Jennifer Granholm (September 2003):
“The only thing she [Granholm] has done and done well is keep up the public happy face“.[emphasis added]
On Betsy’s often sharp tongue:
“The only way I could see her posing a problem might be if she says something out of turn. She’s considered to have sharper edges than her husband, and might be tempted to take the gloves off in an awkward way or at an awkward time.” – a careful Bill Ballenger, Editor, Inside Michigan.
On Betsy’s role in the DeVos’ campaign:
“”It all depends on what Dick does. In every campaign the husband and wife get together and decide what role the candidate’s spouse should play. Her role may be up front or more behind the scenes.” – a even more cautious Ed Sarpolus of EPIC-MRA
But, where’s Betsy’s face now? Why is she locked up in some undisclosed location, like Dick Cheney?
Two of the Most Memorable Betsy Blunders
Blunder #1 Michigan Workers’ “Are Paid Too Much” (April 2004)
Thursday’s action [Michigan Democratic Party "substitution resolution" to presidential candidates] was the latest twist in a political spat revolving around comments DeVos made concerning a Washington D.C. meeting in late April attended by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and other Democratic governors. The governors used the opportunity to blame President Bush for job losses in their states.”Many, if not most, of the economic problems in Michigan are a result of high wages and a tax and regulatory structure that makes this state uncompetitive,” DeVos said in response to the governors’ comments.
The Grand Rapids Press reported that DeVos said the economic climate for job creators in Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia is much more hospitable than Michigan’s. All three are right-to-work states, which allow workers to opt out of joining unions in companies with unionized employees.
The Grand Rapids Press article April 28, 2004 reported, “(Betsy) DeVos said right -to-work laws must be considered, along with other solutions to regulations and high taxes on businesses” concluding with the following quote from Betsy’s mouth, “States with right-to-work laws have an advantage in attracting new jobs.”
It seems clear aggressive so-called right-to-work legislation is on Dick’s agenda, too.
Democratic Party Chairman Melvin “Butch” Hollowell at the time criticized DeVos for her comments, saying that “billionairess Betsy DeVos has no idea what real families go through.”
Again from the GR Press:
“She’s telling us that by paying Michigan workers less than they are worth, it’s good for business in Michigan,” Hollowell said in a release. “This is another example of Betsy DeVos playing Marie Antoinette by saying to Michigan families, `Let them eat cake‘ ”
In a follow up Betsy wrote a letter to the editor published in the Grand Rapids Press protesting, and somehow, the GR Press turned her statements into a peice following the headline, `Betsy DeVos: Michigan workers are paid too much’. And the first line of the article was `So who does Betsy think is getting paid too much?’ Caught in her own expression she is unwilling to state who it is that is paid too much. As a consequence the bad publicity she thinks she received unfairly.
Betsy goes on to say:
“Only one problem, I did not say that. As someone in the political realm, I am accustomed to having adversaries seize on comments and distort them to fit their own purposes. Politics is a rough game, and I can handle that. So if the governor’s people want to twist my words they can. It is still a free country. Also, if the newspaper wants to editorialize against my opinions, that’s fine. But a newspaper should not put words in my mouth, or twist my comments for any reason for the purpose of making the story more exciting.”
So just what is the difference between “high wages” that make Michigan “non-competitive” and “paid too much”? Here we learn Betsy — apparently thin skinned– enjoys laying it out, but can she take it when the results go against her. Some of you must remember the “tiff” and letters to the editor exchanges between Betsy and others over Michael Moore’s appearance in Grand Rapids promoting his movie Fahrenheit 911?
In Holland, Michigan a persistent tale is told for truth of the two brilliant young engineers who were predominate in the invention and development of the vanity auto visor which made Ed Prince, Betsy Prince DeVos’s father, a very wealthy man. These two were summarily shown the door soon after the cutting edge product was introduced. Betsy seems to savor this kind of hire and fire at-will privilege no matter the impact on morale or the individual–so unfairly treated.
Blunder #2 “People Like Us Must be Stopped” (1998)
This is what Betsy DeVos said concerning radical right GOP big money financers like herself and Dick. From a great piece in Mother Jones:
Seeing as Dick DeVos is gearing up for a run at Jennifer Granholm’s Governor spot, we thought it might be nice to dredge up an old text bite archive straight from the mouth of Betsy DeVos, who served for a time as the Chair of the Michigan Republican State Committee:
“I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party,” Betsy DeVos wrote in an op-ed for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.”"We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections. People like us must surely be stopped.”
Got that right, Betsy. You must be stopped, and any of those secret “non-plan” plans, more conservative than Adam frameworks, dark age policies and radical right initiatives you and Dick won’t tell the people of Michigan about; The Truth.
The Brother of All Betsy Liabilities:
Her Black Prince Brother, Erik Prince CEO of Mercenary Blackwater USA Who doesn’t remember Fallujah: the charred remains of Blackwater military “contractors” (as whey were euphemistically called, they are paid “mercenaries”) dangling from that bridge and insurgents dancing about in glee. It was the Iraq version of Mogadishu all over again.
That event alleged to be caused by Blackwater’s slipshod planning and preparation for which the widows of the killed former operators are suing Blackwater. Their fatal hotshot bravado caused George Bush to order premature military revenge by the regular forces and many now know the rest of the story. War profiteering, botched operations, that nasty collateral damage, missing deadlines and deliverables that disappear along with the American taxpayers’ money.
Fallujah’s door to door street fighting was a negative turning point in the US effort to pacify the Iraq resistance and establish peace. Those men–so savagely killed and desecrated–were employees of the Prince Group’s Blackwater services, run by CEO Erik Prince, Betsy’s brother.
Because the DeVos family holdings are not entirely open to public scrutiny, and Dick DeVos continues to refuse to release their tax returns, it is only possible to state that Betsy is directly related to Erik. National and international stories about Blackwater always thread back to Betsy and to her powerful political contributions and influence, GOP party positions and connections, and the fact that she and Dick are Bush Pioneers.
Despite mything the story of being American patriots, Blackwater hires dark types of soldiers of fortune from all over the world, some from the ragtag taggers of former Soviet and Chilean forces. Blackwater wants to train, own and equip a brigade size mercenary force, to be the largest private army in the world. It is expanding from its huge base in North Carolina to California and on into the Philippines, and other international locations.
Highly respected conservative scholar, Phillip Hansen, characterized the US government’s permits and contracts for Blackwater to bring its heavily armed and battle hardened forces into New Orleans following Katrina, as “pernicious.” Pernicious and dangerous is what operations like Blackwater are, a real threat to the democratic nature of America. These privateers’ activism and reach go far beyond the rule of law or the control of Congress. It is just beginning to dawn on opinion makers how dangerous and threatening its operations and potential for real abuse, not just in foreign fields, but domestically as well.
Tax returns or other financial records might show that Betsy’s interests in The Prince Group LLC has ties directly to holdings in Erik Prince’s Blackwater USA LLC, which was formed using The Prince Group’s initial seed funding from the family fortune.
Betsy and Blackwater are connected. To what degree remains unknown. Why is Dick DeVos being so public about his own relationship with Blackwater? Do Dick & Betsy have a financial connection or interest in Blackwater beyond the influence she may give to protect or promote Blackwater’s aims? Is there blood money in that Gucci purse of hers? We just don’t know.
How Betsy has Confused, Used and Abused the “Right-to-Lifers”
Playing the attack dog against Gov. Jennifer Granholm rejecting protecting the life of mothers and raising gay marriage issues (October 2003):
“There’s going to be a firestorm from the right after Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed legislation to ban so-called partial birth abortion.” That’s the prediction of state GOP Chairwoman Betsy DeVos after Granholm vetoed the bill Friday. “That will start to reveal her true colors to people who have a technicolor view of Granholm,” DeVos said. “For most people in this country, no matter what their view is on abortion, partial birth abortion is viewed as the most heinous act associated with abortion.”
How well Betsy knew the extent of the objections which would be raised, Betsy served on the National Right to Life Committee.From an old article dated May 18, 2003 in Women’s News entitled “Republican Party Donates to Right to Life”:
In fact, the National Right to Life Committee, which runs hundreds of issue ads each election, is fighting to block disclosure of who is paying for the ads designed to draw support to candidates who back the committee’s political agenda. The group is represented by its longtime attorney, James Bopp Jr., active in the Republican Party and a convention delegate. Bopp handles the litigation through the James Madison Center for Free Speech, which he also heads. It was founded by Betsy DeVos, a member of the family that owns the massive direct sales company Amway and is noted for it’s election largess, contributing over $1 million in 1998 and over $750,000 in 2000, entirely to Republicans. DeVos also sits on the small James Madison board of directors, as do O’Steen and Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee.
The simple fact is Betsy, with her money, was a founding member of the National Right to Life Committee. Another simple fact is Gov. Granholm personally opposes partial birth abortion. The bottomline is that the abortion issue is merely a tool of choice used by DeVos controlled political machines like the Foundation for Traditional Values, the Citizens for Traditional Values, and other right-wing organizations used for their own personal and political power and profit.
Betsy’s Forced Out of Michigan Republican Party Chairman’s Job (February 2000)
Betsy resigns as Michigan Republican Party Chairman, after tiff with then Gov. John Engler described in a Grand Rapids Press article “DeVos: Voucher backers ‘up against lies’”:
In the face of waning support, former Michigan Republican chairwoman Betsy DeVos preached her pro-voucher message at a local church Sunday. DeVos, wife of Dick DeVos, who has led the voucher campaign, made her pitch to members of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Gaines Township.[Betsy Prince DeVos] tells a church crowd that she is not motivated by polls, which show support for Proposal 1 below 40 percent [statewide voucher proposal].
She resigned her position as state GOP chairwoman in February in the midst of a feud with Republican Gov. John Engler, who called the proposal a loser that would cost the party votes. DeVos is far from ready to say the governor was right but has been careful not to criticize Engler.
“I don’t think (Engler’s position), ultimately, will have any impact,” DeVos said. “It would’ve been nice to have his support. That’s all I’ll say about that.” DeVos puts the blame on the proposal’s sagging campaign at the feet of the opposition, led by Kids First! Yes! “I think we have been up against a lot of lies and distortion,” she said.
Betsy Will Never Say Die on those Vouchers
Read carefully Betsy’s early statements concerning how she gives support to her choice of schools in the Grand Rapids Press, March 21, 1999:
“Our definition of public education would be that each family is able to send their children to the school that is best for that child, regardless of what kind of school that is,” Betsy DeVos said. ” We don’t necessarily believe that has to be government-run schools.”
Betsy defied Gov. John Engler and pursued her voucher initiative and precipitated the loss of Michigan for George W. Bush and Spencer Abraham in 2000. “Rather than accountability, what we get from [Tom Watkins] are platitudes of wonderful things that are to come.” (Dick has only platitudes these days). Betsy was impatient with reporting which she hoped would put the scoring of public school testing in a bad light, an event she could use rhetorically to further downgrade neighborhood schools in favor of schools of choice, faux public charters, and eventually tax payer funded, parochial school vouchers.
Still stinging over the landside defeat of her voucher Proposal 1 year earlier, Betsy was given an guest column in the Grand Rapids Press on December 22, 2001 where she laments:
“Choice has proven to be far more effective at demonstrating progressive change than committees, commissions and hearings. [By this DeVos trashes the legislative and public participation in hearing process, democracy in action] So, it has been a year since the vote on Proposal 1. [DeVos's pro-voucher effort] What do we have to show for it? [Obviously DeVos needed to feel she had controlled the agenda by forcing the vote.] What can we say to the families who have kids trapped in poor performing schools? [Earlier in the article she attacked the inner city schools with large concentrations of minorities and abject poor like in Benton Harbor, Inkster, Flint, etc.]Should we ask them to be patient? Maybe invite them to testify at a hearing? [Again her hostile contempt for democratic process is expressed in sarcasm.] Or encourage them to feel good about their schools and not be so negative? I think not.”
[emphasis and [notes] added]
This again is a typical rhetorical jab at the public school system Betsy, more than any other woman in the Michigan has done more to incomer and to disenfranchise public schools. She seeks this attack on our neighborhood schools in order to curry favor giving tax-paid vouchers to her elitist and ethnic Dutch, Calvinist parochial schools and fatting up “entrepreneurials” (such as her personal friend, J. C. Huizenga, National Heritage Academies) operating proprietary for-profit charters.
Betsy DeVos was back at it on private school vouchers in a Grand Rapids Press article on June 2002, “Voucher backers hopes rekindled: It may have no legal effect in Michigan, but an expected Supreme Court ruling could give a political boost to the pro-voucher movement”:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling could help or hurt any future voucher initiatives in Michigan. It also could have no effect at all, leaving Michigan’s voucher debate at the mercy of the state constitution — one of the most restrictive in the nation when it comes to public funding of private schools.Leading voucher advocate Betsy DeVos said the constitution is the biggest hurdle for any voucher initiative. Her opponents see it as the last line of defense. A 1970 constitutional amendment prohibits any state aid — direct or indirect — from going to private schools.
“Before anything can be done in terms of broad school choice, the constitutional language has to be amended,” DeVos said. “There are many states that are much further along (with vouchers) than we are in Michigan that are likely to have pressure put on their legislatures to take action. Unfortunately in Michigan it’s not a legislative issue, it’s a constitutional issue.”
DeVos said she’s hoping for the strongest pro-voucher decision possible — and she’s optimistic. The voucher proposal championed by DeVos and her husband, Dick, in 2000 was defeated by voters, but it didn’t stop the DeVoses from furthering the cause.
Since the vote, Betsy DeVos has formed the Grand Rapids-based think tank Choices for Children and a school-choice political action committee called the Great Lakes Education Project . She also serves on the boards of two national organizations that filed briefs in the Cleveland case. “I really feel it’s going to be a favorable decision,” she said.
Active today out of an office on Monroe next to the Amway Grand and the DeVos Place is the DeVos led All Kids Matter. It is an ongoing and growing arm of the DeVos voucher effort and it has had a strong impact on other states.
Betsy’s smear campaign to remove then State School Superintendent, Tom Watkins from his position was covered by the Grand Rapids Press, January 2004 in “Education chief fails DeVos test”:
State Republican chairwoman Betsy DeVos wants the state school superintendent to resign, saying Tom Watkins has failed to do his job. “Rather than accountability, what we get from [Tom Watkins] are platitudes of wonderful things that are to come,” [Betsy DeVos] said. “It’s time for Tom Watkins to resign.” DeVos criticized Watkins’ handling of the school accreditation program, pointing to missed deadlines to roll out first-ever school report cards for schools.
Does all this leave any doubt that vouchers will be back again if Dick is elected? As Betsy puts it “Albert Einstein was right when he said – `the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results’.”
Back to that “Betsy Business”, Building a Base
While taking a break from being the Michigan GOP Chairman, Betsy was busy with several of her and Dick’s Christian Right organizations being named as defendants in a April 2004 FEC Investigation:
Federal Election Commision
For Immediate Release
April 9, 2004
PARTY MISUSE OF SOFT MONEY TO PAY FOR ISSUE ADS RESULTS IN $280,000 CIVIL PENALTYWASHINGTON — The FEC has entered into a conciliation agreement with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) resulting from its 1999 transfer of $500,000 in soft money to the U.S. Family Network (USFN) to pay for issue advertisements. The NRCC violated the Act by making the transfer to USFN knowing that USFN planned to transfer at least some of the funds to a third party to pay for issue ads in the 2000 election cycle. As part of the conciliation agreement, the NRCC agreed to pay a $280,000 civil penalty.
In the fall of 1999, USFN solicited $500,000 in soft money from the NRCC to pay for “media and grassroots.” After initially denying these requests, the NRCC donated $500,000 to USFN without following its usual procedures to approve and process large donations. Prior to the donation, Ed Buckham, the founder of USFN, had agreed with Jim Ellis, who was affiliated with Americans for Economic Growth (AEG), that AEG would run radio ads accusing Democrats of planning to raid the Social Security Trust Fund surplus. After receiving the NRCC’s $500,000 donation, USFN transferred $300,000 to AEG. AEG then spent approximately $260,000 for two sets of radio ads criticizing Democratic efforts to spend portions of the Social Security surplus on “foreign aid and big government programs.”
The NRCC knew through its agents that USFN planned to pass all or part of the $500,000 to a third party to pay for party issue advertisements. Therefore, the NRCC violated the Act by using only soft money to pay for activity that should have been allocated between their hard and soft money accounts.
“Bouncing Bet” Returns to GOP Chair Job in July of 2004
“The state Republican chairwoman said she fell in love with politics in 1968, after a fifth-grade homework assignment left her researching the year’s presidential candidates.In the subsequent decades, DeVos has risen to state leadership and has clashed with both Democrats and — on occasion — her fellow Republicans. The Holland native stepped down from the job of state chairwoman in 2000 after a falling out with Gov. John Engler, but took the job back last year, quickly becoming Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s most visible critic and working to reinvigorate the state GOP for a new election cycle.”
DeVos took over leadership of the state GOP in 1996, but resigned in 2000 after a dispute with Engler over her support for a state initiative to establish state-funded school vouchers — a proposal Engler opposed and which ended up losing in a statewide vote. But after the Republicans lost control of the governorship to Granholm, DeVos returned to the party’s helm to help get it through the coming election.
“When it (returning to the chair position) was first suggested to me, I dismissed it,” DeVos said in an interview. However, “the circumstances were such that it was what I needed to do.”
Now She Wants Michigan’s Governorship
Betsy DeVos is an active participant in many Far Right, Christian Conservative, and pro-corporatist organizations and foundations. Her immense wealth insures that she will remain a formidable player in the cultural wars which she so dearly loves. If she becomes Michigan’s first lady, her impact will be felt at every level of government. She will work toward and accomplish substantial changes that will greatly benefit her point of view and exclude the views and needs of those which whom she has no identity or compassion. Betsy will be a major player. What Betsy sez, if Dick DeVos is elected, will become our scripture for the day.
That’s why Betsy rates a “12″ on a scale of 1 to 10 on the level of influence she will have on Dick DeVos if their self-funding, for personal, for-profit campaign buys them our governorship.
Since She is Gagged, Here are a Few Samples of What “Betsy Sez”
One of our favorites, an example Betsy’s “scatter-blitzing”, in her own words:
“I’m going to warn you up front; I’m going to say some things today that aren’t usually said in polite conversation, but they are things that need to be said, things long overdue.”
In setting up the reelection of her contribution benefactor, George W. Bush in 2003, Betsy sez: “We have a period of time to see some of those things turn around. If there’s even the slightest improvement in the economy, it’s going to be hard for any of the nine Democrats to find a crack in the wall.”
“Disagreeing and questioning is fine, in fact it is quintessentially American.” One should hope Betsy learns to practice what she preaches. Ask any Michigan Democratic leader, or even any GOP moderate about that one.
Bashing and gnashing on “The Left” and “those Democrats” Betsy chided they “have become totally consumed by their hatred of our president” and have resorted to “malicious and tasteless name-calling“. “These Democrats are doing a disservice to the whole country and they are discrediting themselves in the process. ”
This is the parroting of the radical right noise machine. Serious opposition to parts of the Bush agenda do cause fear, misgivings, and a great desire for change, these motivators are not hatred, they are conditions which express great dissatisfaction and concern for the welfare of the country and our way of governance–many, including Democrats, see as under siege.
“Hate is a consuming emotion. Hate eventually overtakes and manipulates its host.” Betsy amplifying the “ditto-head” hate theme of the GOP noise machine. And this one, “A person filled with hate becomes an illogical person. A person filled with hate becomes an irrational person.”
“In many cases they [Democrats] have resorted to malicious and tasteless name-calling. … This is not your father’s Democratic Party.” Betsy represents a kind of Republicanism that cannot be held in high regard for it has become elitist, sectarian, and over-cast with twinges of racial and class-consciousness.
Comments bashing Democrats for supporting gay marriage, “Republicans support traditional marriage. We support marriage between one man and one woman because that is the way God set it up and because children need a mother and a father to love and care for them.”
“As another election approaches, politicians will rush to fill the air with meaningless clichés that are impressive sounding but short on substance.” Betsy seems not to be disturbed by the vacuous positions and postponements of her husband Dick’s campaign and its vague and empty nostrums.
“Democrats are in fact overtly and openly hostile to all things religious or anything pertaining to faith.” Betsy’s real cuts arise out of her sense of moral and religious superiority to others of differing faith who hold beliefs not in keeping with her own. To insinuate that Democrats are “evil” or “promoters of agendas that are evil” or “lead to evil” is was and is an easy step for Betsy who was raised and schooled in a ethically isolated environment made up of the “elect.”
“I know I am painting with a broad brush” Even she has occasional moments of clarity about her intense methods of operation.
“We sorely need to return to civil discussion in this country.” Betsy often used sophomoric terms and expressions in the literature published under her approval during her tenure as Michigan Republican Chair. For example, one of her favor expressions “Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire” was also used as a title for a number of handouts, flyers and other political smear tactic tools used to cull the ranks of “her” MI-GOP.
Questioning Democrats and their faith(s) Betsy sez “They (Democrats) are becoming militantly secular. They are increasingly intolerant of the faith-based traditions of American culture.”
Much of the politicized, religious, radical right aspects and workings of Dick & Betsy DeVos were covered in a previous posting “The DeVos Doctrine: Mission ala D. James Kennedy”. However, no rundown of Betsy material would be complete without further reference to her promotion of a “Christian Nation”. The word “Freedom” is the Bush code word for “Christianity” in far right Christian circles and “prayer” sites that are used for harvesting political email lists and pushing focused themes. She has a specific and well-drawn set of “values” and mores that she wants put into law to establish a theocratic basis for culture and citizen behavior. Compromise is not in her toolbox.
Betsy has repeated these encoded Christian dominionist messages, for example: “As President Bush said in his State of the Union Address, `The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable — yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.’ Our goal is not merely a partisan victory – those can ring hollow after time. Our goal is far more ambitious and far more important. We want Michigan to lead the country in prosperity, and America to lead the world in freedom.”
Betsy states: “Religion and faith are not sources of division in America, quite the opposite. Our country was founded in faith and liberty and those traditions continue to be sources of strength and unity for us.” The premise is that religion and faith are complimentary to strong, honest democratic societies is the high ideal. However, Betsy’s penchant to favor a “Christian” America and by that a certain set of religious standards and mores is in fact as serous source of present and future divisiveness. Betsy has broken stride the original intent of the Founders by denying the secular basis of our governance and by denying the tradition of separation of church and state.
“Thank you all and may God continue to richly bless you” is one of Betsy favorite speech closings, probably as far back as her days as an Amway speaker.
“In many cases they have resorted to malicious and tasteless name-calling.” Betsy violated this axiom repeatedly during her conduct of the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) where she mounted ad hominum attacks on elected Republicans seeking re-election who held views on education, which she condemned. Picturing one GOP State Senator as the Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch.
“They [liberals] have become consumed and blinded by their anger and by their zealous intolerance.” Betsy’s anger and ferocity were never questioned in her mind. She was right and would bide no compromise. Her anger is holy, her partisan opponents anger is evil and aggressive.
“The status quo approach, leaving things as they are [in Michigan public schools], is akin to sanctioning institutional child abuse.” The root of Betsy’s animosity toward the fine tradition of a free and public school system may never be known, but her untiring efforts to undermine the neighborhood school are endless.
“They [those `hate filled' liberals] are bent on destruction and they are trying to divide America. That is their goal. They believe that the end justifies the means. They will do and say anything to destroy the President of the United States of America.” It is ultimately unfortunate that this is the kind of language Betsy has brought to the public square. It is at lest an exaggeration, and at most the seed of bitterness that creates the erosion of the rule of law and of just fair play.
Attempting to be intellectual Betsy sez: “Didn’t Karl Marx once call religion “the opiate of the masses? ” Betsy is trying to say that religion has not been given a big enough role in government. Using the police powers of government to coerce compliance with religious tenants is dangerous. By quoting Marx she seems to imply those who oppose her efforts to Christianize government are Communists.
“We let them know that Michigan is not even thinking about settling into the Democrat column. In fact, I strongly believe that we are on the ascendancy here in Michigan. Good days are ahead,” Betsy’s starting lines of her “farewell” speech as Chairman to the MI-GOP Convention in 2005.
What Others Think of Betsy
What the DeVos for Governor Campaign would have people hear about Betsy DeVos is reflected in the words of the First Lady, Laura Bush on her recent visit to support Dick DeVos:
“I’m so happy to be here today for Dick DeVos for governor. (break) I also want to, of course, recognize Betsy DeVos, Dick DeVos’s wife. I’m so happy to see her here. When your spouse is in politics, you’re involved whether you want to be or not. (Laughter.) And fortunately for Dick, he has a wife who’s very, very capable, who does want to be involved, because we know that successful candidates are the ones who have family members who stand with them all of the time, and I want to thank Betsy for that.
Of course, with her experience in politics, she’s stood by many candidates, including my husband. So thank you, Betsy, for everything that you’ve done for Republican candidates, and especially for your support now for your husband’s campaign for governor.”
Betsy DeVos is Bush’s #1 most generous single contributor; of course that rates a visit.
“When the state party chair [Betsy] speaks about education, the image conjured is vouchers” — State Rep. Doug Hart
“I want to thank my friend, Betsy DeVos, and her father-in-law, Rich.”
– George W Bush on 2004 campaign stop in Michigan:
“Some people are focused on power, control, politics and adults [when it comes to education] — Martin Ackley, State Department of Education
The Grand Rapids Press:
“Be it in politics, special interests or business, [Betsy] DeVos stands firm in her beliefs. And, she does not see any reason to back down or apologize to those who criticize her.”
ONE LAST “Betsy Sez”
Betsy’s scolds the Republican National Party from the Grand Rapids Press in February of 1999 with the subtitle “State Republican Party Chairwoman Betsy DeVos speaks following her re-election during the Michigan Republican Convention Saturday in Lansing”:
“We must aggressively export our success here to the national party, which desperately needs it. It’s time for us to give orders to Washington.”"We don’t need to ‘moderate’. We need to stand up and be counted. Having no message is no way to win elections.”
In announcing the debate Tuesday [Republican presidential primary debate in Grand Rapids that was in planning for January 2000], GOP Chairwoman Betsy DeVos said because Michigan has been leading the way for Republicans across this nation, “it is only right that Republicans who now want to lead this nation come here to debate their ideas and vision for our future. “
No message? What ideas is Dick debating about now? Since when did Betsy ever allow for any real internal debate within “her GOP”? There were no resolutions at all in this summer’s GOP Convention, none.
Clearly having no message, not allowing for any discussion, or revealing any of their future plans, has been the basic irony with the DeVos Campaign’s strategy from the start. The DeVosses maintain even into the final days of the election their own silient, hidden agenda. Only they know what it is.
If voters get even a glimpse at what the Dick & Betsy DeVos and their secret “DeVos Doctrine” have in store for our state, the vast majority would reject the DeVos candidacy out right, and they know it. That’s why Betsy’s lips are “zipped.”
Betsy DeVos’ long (partial) list as a political operative and radical right activist and founder*:
Acton Institute, Director and Board of Directors 1995-Present
Advocates for School Choice, Unknown
All Children Matter, Co-Founder and major funder
American Council of Young Political Leaders, Board of Trustees 1995-Present.
American Council of Young Political Leaders, Delegate to China, 1988
American Education Reform Council, Board of Directors 2001-?
American Heart Association, Co-chairman, “Heartbeat” fundraiser, 1995-Present.
Bill Schuette for U.S. Senate Committee, Co-chairman 1990
Bush-Cheney Campaign, W is for Women, Unknown, 2004
Bush-Quayle Campaign, Kent County, Co-chairman 1988.
Bush-Quayle State Steering Committee, Vice-Chairman 1992.
CEO America, Member of Advisory Board 1998-?
Children First America, CEO
Children First, Member and Board of Directors, 2000-Present.
Choices for Children, Chair
Choices for Children, Chairman 2001
Club for Growth, Unknown 2006
Council for National Policy, Member and Unknown
Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, Founders
Education Freedom Fund, Board of Directors 1995-Present.
Education Freedom Fund, Director
Fifth District Republican Committee, Chairman 1989-1992.
Ford for President, Kent County Republican Committee, Volunteer or “ScatterBlitzer”, 1976
Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), Founder and Chairman 2001-?
Heritage Foundation, Advisor (Dick and his father, Rich were both Trustees)
James Madison Institute, Director
John Engler for Governor Committee, Unknown, 1990
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Board Member
Kent County Precinct Delegate, 1986-Present.
Kent County Republican Committee, Chairman 1984-1988.
Kent County Republican Finance Committee, Co-chairman 1983-1984
Kids Hope USA, Unknown
Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Member of the Board
Michigan Republican Party, Chair (two terms, See below)
Michigan Republican Party, Chair 1996-2000 and 2004-2005
Michigan Republican State Committee, Chairman 1996-2000 and 2004-2005
Michigan Republican State Conventions, Delegate and Alternate Delegate 1980-Present.
National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Finance Chairman, , 2000.
National Right to Life Committee, Founder
“Of The People” Campaign, Co-Chair
Prince Group LLC, Unknown
Republican National Committee, Budget Committee Member, 1992
Republican National Committee for Michigan, Chairman 1992-1997
Republican National Convention, Alternate Delegate 1984
Republican National Convention, Delegate, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004
Restoring the American Dream, Finance Co-chairman 2001
Shipwreck Sportswear, Jamaica Unknown
Spence Abraham for U.S. Senate Committee, Chairman 1994
Windquest Group, Chairman
Windquest LLC, President and Vice President “Administration”
*NOTE: These are just a start there are numerous other campaigns, “foundations” and radical right organizations at the national, local and state levels. This list does not include another long list of causes to which she provides funding. Betsy’s involvement makes the “cliché “too numerous to mention” the phrase of choice.